Very little about this
train wreck of a season went according to plan.
The talent level was
The coaching wasnít
And the biggest
embarrassment in the teamís history went down, a national story that still
hasnít been closed.
In the aftermath of the
disappointing season ending loss to the Jets, owner Stephen Ross vowed that
ďweíre going to look at everythingĒ.
Really, what else could
the man say?
Ross is wise to step back
away from the emotions of the season and think clearly about what needs fixing.
But with the advent of the new year, the time has now come for him to decide
what to do.
Is flushing the entire
front office and coaching staff down the toilet the answer for an 8-8 team?
Does he stand pat with the current leadership team? Or, will some tweaks be in
Letís begin here: winning
football starts with winning match-ups. To do that, you need talented, quality
people. An 8-8 record, 3rd place in the division, and an express
ticket to the offseason tells us the Dolphins didnít have enough of them.
And, in my opinion, that
was the biggest issue with the 2013 Miami Dolphins. After more than $200
million in new contracts, with over $100 million in guaranteed money, and an
unprecedented haul of high draft picks, the Dolphins STILL couldnít win enough match-ups
and, consequently, couldnít realize more than a one game improvement.
On offense, the Dolphins
got what they DIDNíT pay for: a ramshackle offensive line that couldnít protect
the quarterback (setting a new team record for sacks) and couldnít generate a
running game. This retarded the growth of QB Ryan Tannehill, who is supposed to
be the teamís most important asset. It also proved ruinous to any offensive
continuity the team hoped to generate. The Dolphins ranked among the worst in
the NFL in Total Offense and Points per Game at the end of the regular season.
Remember this: nothing on
offense, no matter the scheme, works well if you donít have a good offensive
line. And these Dolphins didnít. Itís likely that 80% of this unit will have to
be rebuilt in the offseason.
Defensively, a once
stellar run deterrent was compromised by expensive personnel decisions at
linebacker which simply didnít pan out. They finished 24th in the
NFL in total yards allowed, though a stout redzone group managed to keep the
team in the top 10 in fewest points allowed. LB play remains a persistent
inconsistency on this team several years running.
Even special teams
regressed! Kicker Caleb Sturgis was not an upgrade over the departed Dan
Carpenter, and return teams were statistically worse versus 2012 in just about
every category. In 78 kick and punt returns, the Dolphins werenít able to
generate a single TD (versus two last season).
Forget the transaction
level analysis. Thatís a distraction. Reality is the sum of the moves because the
NFL is a bottom line business. And ANY GM that has one winning season in six
years with two different head coaches, and several offensive and defensive coordinators,
is just not moving the franchise forward.
Add to it the off-the-field
embarrassments, and the situation is really a lot worse. The Dez Bryant matter
was appalling enough, something that wouldnít be tolerated in ANY properly run
business. But this seasonís Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation cannot
be forgiven. Yes, it would be unfair to lay all of the blame for that squarely
on Jeff Ireland, but he was the one who brought both men, and their known baggage,
into the organization: two time bombs ready to go off. When Philbin wanted to
get rid of Incognito, Ireland refused. And Martin isnít even a good playerÖanother
wasted second round pick.
It says here that no
coach can be successful when the GM is constantly stuffing the roster with stiffs
and troublemakers; a one step forward, one step back exercise.
Enough is enough. Jeff
Ireland needs to go.
Itís time for Ross to
hire a new GM, someone who will bring the right players, and enough of them,
into the organization for a solid foundation of winning. Ross should also look
closely at the coaching to make sure he has the right man for the job.
Head coach Joe Philbin
has his strengths, the biggest being his steady, even-tempered nature. He
doesnít get too high on wins and doesnít get too low on losses. When chaos
struck, he kept the team on an even keel and got them into position for a
playoff berth. This moved him into Coach of the Year discussions, and
rightfully soÖbefore the bottom fell out.
And yes, Philbin has his
shortcomings. He seems to lack a feel for the pulse of his team, mainly because
he didnít have a reliable conduit into the vibe of his locker room. He
foolishly allowed Incognito to serve as a team leader. Heís ridiculously
stubborn at times. And he could have played more to the strengths of his
Many media and fans are
wondering whether or not Joe Philbin is the right man for the job. Itís a fair
conversation to have.
Just know that Don Shula
isnít wondering. Heíll tell you the Dolphins are in good hands.
ďI like (Philbin) a lot,Ē Shula said this past Sunday. ďHeís a heck of a
guy. He comes from a great program (Green Bay) so heís been with a winner. You
can see the imprint on whatís happening here and the people heís hiring and the
way theyíre playing. I think heís the right man for the job.Ē
It goes without saying
that no one, you and me included, knows coaching better than Shula, a man who
is privileged to know a heck of a lot more than we do about the TRUE goings on
in Davie. Heís forgotten more about football than we have learned. So if Shula
says it, thatís good enough for me and should be good enough for you.
Again, thatís not to suggest
Philbin and his staff have been perfect. No one is saying that.
Mike Sherman, often criticized for his playcalling, could be leaving, or
retiring. The timing for him and Philbin is probably right. But let us not
forget that Sherman served a valuable purpose in helping the club to properly
identify Tannehill as the QB of the future, and in getting him started as a
Letís also not forget the
inadequacies of the personnel Sherman was handed, especially on the offensive
line and at running back, which essentially condemned the offense to being
one-dimensional. Itís very hard to be consistently good under those
Looking back on the
season, the win over the Patriots was something of an illusion. While it
reflected progress, the depleted Pats still finished a strong four games ahead
of the DolphinsÖa genuine blowout and an indication of the talent gap that
Thatís not what we were
expecting in 2013. And so the owner will indeed ďlook at everythingĒ, knowing
that he still doesnít have the right group of men at the top and in the locker
room to lead the Dolphins to the promised land.
Will he clean house, or
just clean out the GMís office? We already know that one in four Dolphins on
the roster today will not be with the 2014 team, the league norm.
As for Dolfans, itís
another long, cold, and empty winter sulking over broken dreams and looking
forward to spring.